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Rhode Island Boating Requirements


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This summary is designed to inform the boating public about title options, registration requirements, recording methods, record searches, tax rules, and operational guidelines for the State of Rhode Island. The data is maintained as an open wiki forum where readers are encouraged to participate by sharing knowledge and experiences with this particular jurisdiction. Simply click on the above WikiShare link to contribute further details or suggest a revision.

Registration and Titling

Rhode Island issues both title and registration certificates for non-exempt boats. These are administered by the Department of Environmental Management. This state registers outboard motors but does not issue titles. Registration is required on all boat trailers in Rhode Island. Titling is required on all 1973 and later year models weighing over 3,000 lbs.

All non-exempt boats over 13' must be registered in the state of Rhode Island. Coast Guard documented vessels must also be registered. Exemptions include lifeboats, vessels used only for racing, rowboats less than 12 feet long, and a canoe or kayak. Visit the Division of Registration and Licensing website for a complete list of requirements and exceptions.

Rhode Island does not have provisions for registering abandoned boats. In this case, it will be necessary to petition a local court of law for an award of ownership.

There are approximately 38,406 boats registered in the State of Rhode Island. This accounts for 0.3% of all nationwide registrations.

Numbering and Marking

Boat registration numbers in Rhode Island begin with an "RI" designation which is followed by four numbers and then two letters. These must be displayed on all non-documented boats along with registration sticker tabs.

Coast Guard documented vessels may not display the state registration numbers. However they must display the state registration tabs, an owner designated vessel name, and a hailing port. An official documentation number must also be affixed to a visible interior location in the hull itself or an integral part of the hull.

All vessels manufactured after 1972 are required to have a 12 digit hull identification number affixed to the vessel by the manufacturer. Owners with older boats may apply with the Marine Police Division for a hull number assignment. State assigned hull numbers prefixed with the letters "RIZ" are available for home made boats and those without factory designations. A Rhode Island law enforcement official must inspect the boat if there is a discrepancy in the hull identification number.

Recording Methods

Rhode Island issues titles for non-exempt boats. Secured liens will accordingly be shown on the certificate of title.

Tax liens are sometimes flagged in the state's registration database, recorded as UCC filings, shown on state revenue records, or filed with a county clerk's office.

There are no provisions for recording mechanic's liens or other non-secured claims against registered boats which are not USCG documented.

If the vessel is USCG documented, a security interest is perfected by filing a preferred vessel mortgage. These are recorded with the National Vessel Documentation Center with the earliest submissions taking priority. Other lien claims can be filed in the same manner although these function as notifications only. All such filings are indexed on the vessel's underlying abstract of title.

Record Searches

Boat title records in Rhode Island are maintained in a database which is administered by the Department of Environmental Management. Access to such records is available to owners, qualified parties and the general public. Insights on how to search the database and obtain boat registration, title or historical records can be found in WikiLinks.

Security interests in non-titled and non-documented boats are filed with the Department of State as Uniform Commercial Code recordings. Online UCC searches are available from their web site or by using a public record vendor.

State and Federal tax liens on boats are not always recorded in a consistent manner and are therefore difficult to identify. They may show up as a red flag on state registration records, as UCC filings, in state revenue records, in a county clerks records, or on a vessel's abstract of title for documented boats. Given these disparities, it may be worth obtaining the services of a public record vendor that has access to a broad range of personal property lien recordings.

Ownership, mortgage, and lien search recordings for USCG documented vessels can be obtained by ordering an abstract of title and a copy of the certificate of documentation from the National Vessel Documentation Center.

Taxes and Insurance

Boats are not subject to sales, use, and personal property taxes in Rhode Island.

Rhode Island does not require liability insurance for boats operating on its waters.

Operating and Safety

Rhode Island requires any boat operator born on or after January 1, 1986, while a motorized vessel over 10 hp to pass a boater safety course and to carry a boater education card.

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management must be notified within 15 days regarding a change of address, transfer of interest or if the vessel was abandoned, destroyed, or stolen.


The information contained herein is subject to change without notice and may contain errors or omissions. Be sure to check with the respective government agency before taking action on any such data. More detailed information about all of these topics can be found in the above WikiTags.

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3/29/2022 - Page initiated by Team BoatWiki.



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